Best startups in Poland and how to find them
When one wants to find some promising American start-ups, one visits Silicon Valley. When it comes to the British, East London's Tech City UK is the place to go. But what about Polish start-ups? There is no one place where the bulk of them reside. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of ways to find the most promising Polish start-ups
The last years have been really successful for Polish e-business ventures. Brainly is well on its way to becoming one of the most popular Q&A educational sites in the world. The shopping app Listonic entered the American market. Mateusz Mucha's Percentage Calculator is already among the most popular business apps on Google Play and its creator is just starting to get really serious. Then you have the big players of the beacon proximity technology area such as Estimote Kontakt IO, Seed or Infinity or up and coming video game producers like 11bitstudios.
While some of the start-ups come from the biggest Polish cities, especially Warsaw and Krakow, there are plenty which reside in smaller locations. Poland lacks its very own Silicon Valley and entrepreneurship is still very dispersed. This raises a very important question: where are the Polish start-ups? Here are some of the most and least straightforward ways to go about this issue.
Learn more about Polish start-up eventsOftentimes the quality and sheer quantity of Polish events is what publications on the Polish start-up community brag about. Not without a point. The variety of major annual conferences and especially series of local meet-ups is a strong argument for how much enthusiasm and ambition Polish entrepreneurs display. Learn more about Polish start-up events from one of our previous articles. A number of game-related events visited by start-ups are mentioned in our article on Polish games and game developers.
Polish start-up and start-up-related events attract entrepreneurs from all over the country with a chance for exposure, know-how as well as a number of prestigious contests. They provide a unique chance to actually talk to the people behind the ideas and technologies that seem so attractive at first glance.
Benefit from online resources on Polish tech and start-ups in EnglishOnline resources that can help in the quest to learn about Polish start-ups include news portals, that is web.gov.pl in English or seemea.com, which publishes articles on the whole area of Central and Eastern Europe. What one definitely needs to get familiar with as soon as possible are online maps of Polish start-ups. It's about the quickest way to learn a whole lot of interesting names bundled with links, descriptions and other significant details. Mapped in Poland is an attempt to encompass all of Poland, while Start-up City is a detailed presentation of start-ups from the Tricity area. It's also worth taking a look at the resources provided by Antyweb, one of the better-known Polish web portals, which collects notable Polish start-ups in chronological order.
Search the crowdfunding sitesCrowdfunding websites make a separate category of online resources for good reasons. First of all, they constitute a way of acquiring finances of their own, even though most of them do so through reward crowdfunding, which in essence is more of a way to market a product, confirm its appeal and get just enough money to manufacture the first batch of copies rather than an investment method. But this is precisely why it's such a good reference point. The trending projects are the ones likely to succeed. It's worth to keep an eye on them to make a move just in time. The most popular Polish crowdfunding websites include PolakPotrafi.pl and Wspieram.to, both in the fashion of the ever-popular Kickstarter. You can also find Polish projects on the latter. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms provide successful projects with a lot of exposure. It's not accidental that Sherlybox managed to create so much buzz with its sharing solutions. And there is even more to come.
Invest time in networking with the investors already active on the Polish marketIt's a common knowledge that the group of investors frequently engaged in Polish ventures is relatively small and thus its members know each other quite well. There is hardly any better information source on Polish start-ups for each of them than their peers. This kind of firsthand information may be the most trustworthy, valuable from the financial point of view and virtually impossible to get from another source. If you are able to acquire such contacts, it's well worth the effort. The remaining sources of information may then be considered supplementary and serve as a starting or reference point for further discussions.
Reach out to community centersFor many local start-up communities, there are start-up centers, which organize frequent and periodical meetings and facilitate the participation of budding entrepreneurs in all kinds of initiatives. There is usually at least one major center of this kind in each of 16 Polish voivodeships. Some of the most notable include Techmine from Katowice, active as both an investor and accelerator that helps start-ups grow with the help of experienced mentors, or Geek Girls Carrots, an organization promoting the presence of women in technology. It's also worth it to consider Startup Poznan, an organization that strives to unite the start-up community of Poznan through a series of meet-ups, closely cooperating with the City of Poznan. Another start-up community, also serving as a co-working space, Reaktor, refers to itself as a platform for budding Polish entrepreneurs and innovators to collaborate and network.
Only recently Reaktor was deeply engaged in the creation of Startup Poland, the very first grassroots nation-wide organization dedicated to lobbying for the sake of start-ups. Startup Poland aims to fill the gap, which stems from the lack of a single-point-of-contact organization dedicated to all Polish start-ups. Among its founders you can find a number of influential individuals that stand out in local start-up communities, including Piotr Wilam from Krakow's Innovation Nest, Andrzej Targosz, the organizer of the Bitspiration festival, one of the most important start-up events in Poland, Audioteka's Marcin Beme or Richard Lucas.
Get to know the accelerators and investment fundsIn order to invest in Poland consciously, it's probably a good idea to get some basic knowledge of accelerators, investment funds and VC funds active in this region. Not only do they attract all kinds of attractive projects, they also often offer cooperation to other investors. For starters, get familiar with organizations such as Protos VC,SpeedUp or the Gdansk Science and Technology Park, which serves as an accelerator, a co-working space and a fund in one, facilitating the flow of European funds for start-up growth. It's one of the most vibrant of Polish technology parks of this kind, but there are more of them. You can see the full list of Polish technology parks in the form of an interactive map at the website of PaIiIZ, a government agency specialized in facilitating the investment processes in Poland. Business Link is another truly worthwhile initiative, which provides a network of local accelerators and co-working spaces in many Polish cities.
You should also definitely take a look at our series of articles describing the Polish investment ecosystem, which tackles the topic of Venture Capital in Poland.Author: Adrian Senecki
Much like one could expect, there are quite a few methods of learning about start-ups from Poland. No matter how one ends up doing that, it's worth having in mind the idea that one day a trip to Poland might turn out to be the next logical step. Plan ahead and learn more about Polish events, network with Polish investors and get the most out of it. Start-ups may be a treasure trove, but just like conferences, the investment only starts with buying a ticket.